Doing Consumer research in Africa: lessons from Balogun Market

Doing Consumer research in Africa: lessons from Balogun Market

“If you torture the Data long enough it will confess to anything” – Ronald H. Coase, British Economist  

Hate to admit it…but if we are totally honest, there are moments when it seems like offering market and consumer insights on African is akin to selling snake oil. Despite our best efforts to collect credible data and transform it into compelling insights, many times the practicalities of the people about whom the data is concerned with, and the context in which the data lives, is often presumed upon.

There is a tendency to analyze data in a sterile vacuum as if data is naturally occurring primal element that will always occur in the same state. Add to this, the current fascination with AI, and you may be at risk of ending up with a potentially lethal mix of misleading insights. 

People are the raw material that generate data points that can be studied to produce some new learning or insight. Human behavior is dynamic, unpredictable and often unmeasurable. How do you measure, levels of joy, love, happiness? What units can be meaningfully applied to quantify dislike, indifference, or desire?

So little is known and understood about African markets such that if you asked Chat GPT how many traders there are in Balogun, one of Africa’s largest markets, Chat GPT would tell you its hard to estimate given the market has no specific location and sprawls across a large area.

Research done in highly non-formalized markets can present challenges in making sense of data. Add to this the complexity of trying to replicate a study across several different African countries. How do we keep the human heartbeat at the center of our research efforts?

Our focus as research project management specialists in multi country African studies, is to ensure that every touchpoint in the customized research process closely intersects with local contextual realities. From research design to reporting deliverables, every touch point in the data and insights journey must be deeply rooted in the local contextual reality. This means that client interest and human connection must find convergence in data collection, interpretation and communication of the same.  

Culture, context and community (interdependent relationships) are imperative lenses that must infuse meaning to data and the practice of its proper understanding and application.

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